Annie Nicholas writes paranormal and science fiction romance. Read about her hot vampire thrillers, werewolf romantic stories, alpha shifter and sexy alien romance.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Writing 101- Description

Hey, look! I found my brain.

The next subject I wanted to cover is description in your story. Like show vs tell, you will find two camps on this subject, those who love to describe and those who hate it.

I’m in between the two. I think every scene should be set-up so your reader has a picture in their head BUT they don’t need to know what kind of lace pattern is on the kitchen curtain unless it is pertinent to the story. Also, I suggest not giving a whole paragraph of setting at the beginning of each scene. Weave it into your writing like fine thread and from your characters pov so the reader doesn’t get bored. I’ll give an example in a moment.

Another tool a writer can use is vocabulary. Remember a thesaurus and dictionary is a writer’s best friend. Your character’s mood will affect how you describe your setting. A sad person will view the world differently than an angry one. This also adds to your showing part of writing skills. By using mood in your description shows your reader how your character is feeling without actually telling them.

I will use the above picture for examples.

My character, let’s call her Tiffany, is walking through this forest. As an exercise we will find hopeful words to use and they don’t have to only be adjectives. Let’s use soar, bright, fresh, spring, and promise. I choose most of those words from the top of my head as I thought what hopeful would feel like and I also typed it into my thesaurus to see what came up. I found promising, which sounded good for my use.

Example one:

The bright sunlight broke through the morning mist and Tiffany’s heart soared. Darkness faded so she could see some of the trees and with it some of her fear. Fresh earth tinted the air. Tiffany found a new spring in her step with the promise of escape from these woods.

Notice how all the description comes from Tiffany’s view point. I didn’t describe as if I was above her but from her senses. Let’s mix it up and make Tiffany hopeless by using words like sank, dark, dank, heavy, and danger. I used the same process as above to choose my words.

Example two:

The dark mist swallowed the sunlight and Tiffany’s heart sank. Light faded so she could barely see the trees and with it some of her hope. Dank earth tinted the air. Tiffany found her steps heavy with the danger of being lost forever.

Similar paragraph but by changing the words used to describe the moment, I’ve changed the mood. I didn’t need half a page of description to do it either. From this point the story can continue.

Any questions?


Anonymous said...

Great post! Like you, when it comes to description I'm in between. Too much and I start skimming. I want just enough to get a sense of the setting, that is it.
Loved your examples.

J Hali Steele said...

Really good examples, Annie. I'm a big time skimmer when it comes to description--reading and writing it--though I know some is needed. I'm getting better *grins*.

Thanks for the wonderful post.

Cornelia Amiri said...

Great article. I really appreciate it and I agree fully with all the points you made. Great job.

Lise Horton said...

Great post on one of my favorite subjects. I consider it rather like a puzzle getting just the right description in my writing. I have given workshops on the 5 senses and your example beautifully encompasses sight, but never forget touch, taste, sound and the most important one - smell. Likewise, I like to stress how something seemingly "good" can be used differently. Take a beautiful song like Claire du Lune. Can be romantic, reviving memories of a sweet love. OR it could be playing in the background as a woman sees her family murdered - and then would create a wholly different reaction in the character AND the reader when it plays! I love description! Thanks for this fun post.

Janice Seagraves said...

Oh I like that. I have to remember to use mood description when I write a scene.


Eliza March said...

I'm in love with words and description; I won't deny it. When my youngest son read one of my first attempts at writing a scene, he said, "I know what you're getting at, but hey, Mom, this is way over the top." A man of few words, I took his advice and painfully pared it down. I saved the first version because it's a constant reminder of 'too much'.

My editor just sent back my latest book and actually suggested I add description to one of my scenes. I almost cheered. LOL

Everything is about balance. Thanks for this post. I thought it was very interesting.


Annie Nicholas said...

Good point, Lise, about the five sense but I do suggest to mix it up. I don t think all five sense are needed in each description but a combination of some of them. Say like sight and smell in one and sound and touch in another.

Eliza, I was the same when I started writing. I could write pages describing where my characters were. LOL

Historical Writer/Editor said...

Thanks for this post. It certainly is an issue nowadays! :)